Staying Healthy Through COVID: Q&A With Zenergy Trainer Emily Knowles

By Stacy Whitman 

Zenergy trainer and Pilates and group fitness instructor Emily Knowles has taken the COVID-19 pandemic in stride. Like the rest of us, she was forced to pivot her workout regimen during shelter in place. But while stuck at home, she and her family adapted and found the silver linings. 

“We’ve learned some really cool lessons though this. Let’s not forget them.”

We caught up with Emily to learn more about how COVID-19 has changed her world–and how we can prepare  


What did you do to stay in shape during shelter in place?
My kids and I got up every morning and did a live Pilates workout at 9 am every day (except Sundays) for Zenergy To Go. By the time the shelter in place ended, we’d done 72 straight live workouts. It was good for us because it got us up and going in the morning. At one point, we had 30 or so people working out online with us. People were really appreciative, saying it helped keep them feel connected. And it helped me and the kids stay on a schedule. We felt so accountable because it was live, and we couldn’t let down anyone who was coming online to do the workout with us. 


During quarantine, our family also walked around our neighborhood every day, which wasn’t something that we did before. I started running again, mostly on the bike path. With all the working out at the gym, I had given up running. And we bought mountain bikes for the entire family and started introducing our kids to the sport. 


How has the pandemic affected your eating habits?

During quarantine, I did a lot of cooking and baking. I went through every single one of my cookbooks and earmarked all the recipes that I wanted to try. Then we tried as many as we could. I was doing a ton of cooking and trying to figure out the perfect protein cookies and date-nut balls. 


When you can’t be in the gym, what do you suggest for maintaining or building muscle strength?

If you can’t get to the gym, make an effort to strength train at home. You can do a lot with bodyweight only exercises such as push-ups, planks, squats, and lunges. Our family ended up buying a TRX suspension trainer and hanging it from the ceiling of a spare room. I’ve told a lot of my clients about online options through LES MILLS on Demand, which allows you to do home workouts similar to the ones that we do at Zenergy using only your body weight or dumbbells for resistance.


What’s your secret to getting a good workout at home? 

Use a workout app like LES MILLS on Demand or the free online videos such as Zenergy To Go. 


What kind of equipment do you recommend having on hand?

You can do a lot with a couple pairs of dumbbells and maybe an exercise ball and a mat. TRX is awesome but can be a little expensive. Even if you did push-ups, squats and lunges, you can stay really fit. 


What if you’re someone who has trouble exercising at home?

Figure out what time of day is best for your body to workout. For most people, it’s in the morning. Then commit to working out and stick to a schedule. Tell yourself “Every morning, I’m doing this without fail.” 


Do you view COVID-19 as a challenge or opportunity when it comes to fitness?

Definitely an opportunity. I really felt like I could see the silver lining the whole time. Families were able to slow down and have more time together. Sometimes it was hard because my husband and kids were both trying to work at the kitchen table, which wasn’t great. It’s easy to get annoyed with people when you’re with them constantly. But we made the best of it and tried to have some fun. We had some really special moments. In addition to hiking and mountain biking, we had a Star Wars movie marathon. Another fun thing that we did was sit down and watch every single family video that we’d ever taken of the kids. 


What’s your advice to people to get ready for the next wave? 

We’ve learned some really cool lessons though this. Let’s not forget them. If you don’t have access to a gym, it’s important to keep up a fitness program for your mental and physical health. Make sure you have a plan in place. Online workouts are a great way to keep you accountable and feel connected with other people. Look at it as an opportunity to change up your routine and do something a little different.